IMPERIAL – Given that Wednesday’s 2A softball first-round playoff game between Chartiers-Houston and Our Lady of Scared Heart was a No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup, the Bucs came into the afternoon favored to advance to the quarterfinals.
While she knew her team was supposed to win, head coach Tricia Alderson didn’t expect the game to last only three innings. Because of a complete performance by the Bucs, Chartiers-Houston made a statement in the first round with 15-0 Mercy Rule win.
“We’ll take it,” Alderson said. “I thought we hit the ball really well. ... I thought our pitcher threw well for those three innings, and we played good defense behind her.”
Alderson’s daughter, junior shortstop Kaci Alderson, helped lead the way for the offense, going 3-for-3 with two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. A big reason for her team’s dominant performance, she said, was that they knew not to take OLSH (6-10) lightly regardless of its low seed.
“We treat every team like they’re the U.S. Olympic team. That’s our motto,” she said. “We don’t take any team lightly, and I think that leads to our success.”
In the top of the first, Chartiers-Houston starter senior Ella Brookman set down the Chargers in order. She would retire eight of the nine batters she faced in an abbreviated shutout, striking out four. After senior Hayley O’Neill retired her pitching opponent to start the bottom half of the inning, six straight Bucs reach based in what turned into a five-run inning.
A pair of doubles by senior second baseman Lauren Lober and junior third baseman Karlyn Bayer gave Char-Houston (16-3) a 4-0 lead, and senior center fielder Jaylese Lombardi added a sac fly to make it 5-0. Lober finished the short afternoon going 2-3 with a walk, three RBI and two runs, and Bayer went 3-for-3 with a run and three RBI. The Bucs sent nine batters to the plate in the first.
In the Char-Houston second, O’Neill again retired Brookman to start the inning, and again, Char-Houston responded by batting around and scoring five runs. Freshman left fielder Bella Hess hit a standup triple and Alderson drove her in with a single to extend the lead to six.
“I knew that (O’Neill) was pitching me outside, so that’s kind of what I was looking for,” Alderson said. “When she brought (her pitches) up, I tried to drive it. My swing feels really good, and I hope it continues.”
Four more runs followed, and by the end of the second, the Bucs had put the game out of reach, taking a 10-run advantage into the third.
The next time Char-Houston came to bat, Brookman led off for the third time. Unlike her first two appearances, the pitcher tripled and came around to score one batter later on a sac fly by Hess. After pushing across three more runs, a sac fly by Lombardi made it 15-0 and kicked the mercy rule into effect, giving the Bucs the win.
The future looks bright for OLSH despite exiting in the first round for the third year in a row – the Chargers haven’t won a playoff game since 2007. The Chargers return seven starters next year.
“With the talent that we had, I think we overachieved,” third-year head coach Dr. David Quinn said. “We beat the first-place team in our section (Seton-LaSalle) and the second-place team in our section (South Side Beaver). So our team was capable. We just lost a couple of tough games during the regular season to put ourselves (as a) 16 seed. That just wasn’t a good position to be in.”
For the Bucs, the key to maintaining success will be to continue to play for each other.
“We’re going to play together, and we’re going to continue working hard at practice, and if we have scrimmages,” kaci Alderson said. “I think we’re playing really well, and we’re all playing together. That’s the key to success.”